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THQ... Next Crytek?

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Just make high quality AAA games at a $60 price point and release on Steam (or Origin if you want to be cheeky). Why is this so complicated? Why chase your dick trying to make a F2P MOBA etc etc.?

 

Because 60$ AAA makes fuck no money. Wolfenstein is a positive example in a market that's been declining for years. Or rather than declining it's more and more polarized. You got the big winners like CoD (Activision), Assassin's Creed (Ubisoft) and Battlefield (EA), you got a few good titles (like Wolfenstein) in the midground and then you have a ton of titles that are really good, but they aren't making their money back.

 

The last Bioshock, Tomb Raider, etc were all considered flops for the publisher (even when they sold really, really well). I mean, there's even a reddit thread on this topic http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/vtxi2/great_financially_unsuccessful_games/

 

Neither consoles nor F2P is the enemy. The truth is that it's really fucking difficult to be your own game studio outside of a massive publishing house that can market your game like crazy. And it's even more difficult trying to break out of these traditional patterns and trying to become a self-functioning developer that can both develop and publish. You get high rewards when it works, but you're also shouldering years of financial burden and all the risk.

 

 

I don't think we've heard the full story about Bioshock. I'm not saying you're wrong, obviously it's hard to make great AAA games that also sell well. But the idea that developers should stop trying and jump onto some random bandwagon is not the strategy.

 

The challenge of it actually isn't understanding what to do, for me the formula is still the really simple $60 a pop game, the challenge is how to make a game that has broad appeal and has quality... as usual

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The challenge of it actually isn't understanding what to do, for me the formula is still the really simple $60 a pop game, the challenge is how to make a game that has broad appeal and has quality... as usual

 

 

i'm sorry if i sound really burned here, but the formula to making a game that has broad appeal is spending 3 times the development money on marketing budgets. You can develop a great AAA game and ten people will hear about it on Steam or Reddit, but you only start making money when random kids want their moms to buy it from gamestop. And even then it's still not a guaranteed to break even.

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I think that we forget the role of money in this discussion. Reading up on all that's posted online and doing interviews with industry professionals, it seems to me that a lot of triple A titles are not developed cost efficiently. There's a lot of crunch time, mismanagement, publisher pressure, etc. Kevin Levine just closed his studio to get away from 100+ teams to be more efficient (if you believe the Internet). I'm in no way an expert but at the very least I have better understanding now on how games are made. With that in mind, fully realizing that triple A titles do in fact cost a lot to be made in the first place, I can't shake the feeling that if they would tackle it differently (better management, smarter design decisions, smaller teams, more manageable projects, better vision, better working relationship with the publisher, better distribution, far less interference, less ridiculous marketing costs, etc) that they could make these triple A titles for a lot less money.

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The challenge of it actually isn't understanding what to do, for me the formula is still the really simple $60 a pop game, the challenge is how to make a game that has broad appeal and has quality... as usual

i'm sorry if i sound really burned here, but the formula to making a game that has broad appeal is spending 3 times the development money on marketing budgets. You can develop a great AAA game and ten people will hear about it on Steam or Reddit, but you only start making money when random kids want their moms to buy it from gamestop. And even then it's still not a guaranteed to break even.

We live in the Internet era, the viral marketing era. Are you really so convinced that you need a huge budget to make your game a known commodity? I don't agree. I'm with Spronyvan, it's a lack of creativity, a lack of efficiency, it's making AAA games poorly and not the actual act of making AAA games, which has clouded the issue for the industry.

See: Dark Souls. I'm not an expert, but I don't think it had like the biggest marketing budget by any means. If anything a game like that could only find success with the new opportunities afforded by the web for marketing and word of mouth

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I'm still a believer in making very good games, games with something unique to talk about, doesn't matter what that is. The rest will come with time, sequels and fans, Indy proved this. If you don't have the above, it doesn't matter what business model, budget or scope or aim for. Yes, there is a world of pain in business and game development - but I feel we often find excuses for the cause of a failure, rather than looking at the products and being honest.

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Exactly. In the first place, make a good game. But then rely on news sites to spread the word. Post WIP shots. Keep people updated. Have alpha en beta tests. Do community contests. Try to get communities involved, etc. This should get you somewhere. Go digital only, cut out reselling that way and the middle man. You might not reach the same amount of people but if you can make the games cheaper it should or could even each other out. Just my 2cts.

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Please internet, get it right, it's Ken Levine not Kevin. That was the subject of so many jokes at Irrational too. Not a week would go by without Ken telling us someone had called him Kevin again :)

 

Look, the argument of "what makes a game successful sales wise" is a tired old bitching fest amongst people who mostly have no idea about the financial aspects of game development (gamers)

 

1 million, 2 million, 3 million copies sold (either sold in or sold through, another distinction that needs to be made) is all relative. To a gamer it sounds like a huge amount. At 180 million $ revenue, how could you not be making money???

It's a lot more complicated to publishers. Publishers want their STOCK to rise. That's the job of all CEOs of all publicly traded companies. So 180 million $ of revenue seems like a lot to anyone, but when your competitor is selling millions of hats and dresses a month at 25 cents a pop is netting the same amount for 1/10th the investment and 1/20th the risk upfront, it doesn't matter that you made money, your STOCK will DROP. And that will cost you so much more than 180 Million $ that ultimately you will have lost money.

That's the reason why infamous Bobby Kotick once said Activision was not interested in franchises that couldn't net 100 million dollars PROFIT per year. Not that there isn't good money to be made under that artificial limit. But because the resources of his company are better spent (read, create more stock value) working on those few franchises that do net that profit.

That's why the AAA market has shrunk by 48% in the past 5 years (amount of AAA projects published in the Western world). And there would be plenty of other games to make for a B market of publishers and developers, but guess what, no investor wants to risk the cash so the B market died a not so long and painful death circa 2010.

AAA is the Hollywood of the gaming industry. Risk averse companies consolidated the market around key franchises (like Hollywood) and won't spend their cash on anything that doesn't reach their top sales figures of the past few months, cause otherwise they go bust. It's better to win big on 3 games a year than to win some lose some on 20 titles a year.

With the one exception that Hollywood is all centralized in LA, with offshoots in Vancouver, NY, etc to film on location, whereas the game industry still has centers in a few countries around the world.

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The problem I have with looking at things from purely the publishers perspective is that they inflate these franchises to such exorbitant levels, chasing that one big game you mentioned, that although it seems less risky on paper, eventually those games can and will fail catastrophically. It's a bubble. The Call of Duty yearly bubble is not sustainable, nor is the Assassins Creed bubble, the reliance on epic mega huge yearly installments is going to wear thin on consumers. It's not entirely the wrong idea but the big guys are fucking the chicken pretty hard right now, and taking plenty of risks in doing so.

I'm glad those companies exist, it's good, but I wouldn't feel secure working for one when I know that other shoe is about to drop. Thats the downside of reliance on marketing so heavily, if it fails you're in deep shit. The emphasis on yearly yearly yearly needs to be replaced with a steadfast focus on quality, in order for the bubble to turn into a sustainable growth. Nintendo does a good job of that, no surprise they've been in industry for so long, they know the ups and downs by now. They focus on quality of product first and foremost.

When you need to ship a Franchise X game every single year, I don't think quality is your top priority anymore, and to me that's what makes it a bubble and what creates industry-wide fatigue, contraction, and malaise.

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The so-called bubble isn't really one. The drop in sales on those large franchises is a prolonged process that takes multiple installments over multiple years. It started last year for CoD, and Activision is now betting big on Destiny (rightfully so with 4.6 million beta players) so that franchise can take over. Ubisoft prepared The Division, Rainbow Six and Watch_Dogs to take over Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed (the latter still being hot).

And some franchises can still be dead on arrival. Disney got a few of those recently (Prince of Persia should have been the new Pirates of the Carribean and failed utterly) just like EA pushing for a return of Medal of Honor failed bad too. Still not a sure bet, but the risk is much worse when banking big with these installments.

Nintendo may have been in this business the longest, but year over year they've now lost big on two separate fiscal years. The WiiU is picking up some steam now that Mario Kart has come out, but if there is one company that is so inherently dependent on its big 1st party franchises, it's them.

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Nintendo may have been in this business the longest, but year over year they've now lost big on two separate fiscal years. The WiiU is picking up some steam now that Mario Kart has come out, but if there is one company that is so inherently dependent on its big 1st party franchises, it's them.

 

That's what they can control. The first party franchises are by them, they can ensure they're excellent. This is talking about their console business vs. their development business, but I think it's the same principle, they're not going to compromise the quality of their system (to a fault) if it means introducing junkware or trying to have the biggest graphics e-peen.

 

And the ups and downs are part of a sustainable model IMO, Nintendo still has an absurd, absolutely absurd stockpile of cash to weather the hard times. I think the fact that they can always rely on the quality of the product differentiates them from the parasitic publishers, whose primary interest is to take a good franchise and milk it for every last drop. It's a focus on quality of product as a way to sustain long-term profits, versus a profit-focused approach which views franchises as commodities to be rotated in and out. You need a ying and yang of both obviously, if you relied too heavily on one you'd be in trouble, but it's the fact that Nintendo's ideas make them powerful, versus the money of the publishers, that makes me partial to their approach. If a publisher came along with a bigger budget, then all of the sudden all of the power of your marketing dollar loses out to their marketing dollar, but if you focused on building a great game, that's there no matter what. Nintendo has done that with a lot of success over the years.

 

...

 

Just realized what a tangent we're on :D

 

I think it's useful to explore all of this shit whenever a big studio takes a hit though. 

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Shawn's dream game:

  • has broad appeal
  • is of excellent quality (AAA)
  • not too innovative!
  • no marketing budget needed because it will be viral
  • no sequels allowed
  • Steam (and/or Origin) only
  • $60

Sounds good, bro! Maybe I'll pick it up in a sale~ ;)

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Shawn's dream game:

  • has broad appeal
  • is of excellent quality (AAA)
  • not too innovative!
  • no marketing budget needed because it will be viral
  • no sequels allowed
  • Steam (and/or Origin) only
  • $60
Sounds good, bro! Maybe I'll pick it up in a sale~ ;)

Dark Souls 1 ftw

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Dark Souls had the sales of a great indie title, no large AAA publisher would ever look at it twice on paper. Hence why Bandai picked it up.

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Sorry but that is straight up nonsense, it sold 3m across all platforms, sure it isn't a call of duty but that is a great amount of sales considering the relatively small marketing campaign and small team size. Bad game to try and use as an example.

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